When considering the quest to secure the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, it is important to bear in mind the historical record.
In 1980, after losing several early states, Senator Teddy Kennedy’s campaign rallied to pull off wins in a number of late March, April, and June primaries and caucuses. President Jimmy Carter achieved victories in 36 states compared to 12 for the Senator from Massachusetts. Going into the convention, Carter led Kennedy by a delegate count of 2,129.02 to 1,150.48. Carter went on to be re-nominated before losing the general election. Kennedy’s efforts, although unsuccessful, served as a reminder that the progressive flame had not been vanquished in an era when the New Deal coalition was stumbling towards its full collapse.
In 1984, Senator Gary Hart captured a few early states before former Vice President Walter Mondale rattled off a string of victories in March and April. Hart mounted a comeback, with wins in several Midwestern and western states in May and June. Hart ended up winning 26 states compared to 22 for Mondale. While securing 35.9% of the popular vote, slightly behind Mondale’s 38.3%, Hart (like Kennedy) stayed in the fight through the last primaries and caucuses although he trailed Mondale in the pre-convention delegate tally (1,929 to 1,164).
In 1988, after 13 wins and garnering more than 6.9 million votes in the primaries and caucuses (compared to slightly over 10 million for the eventual nominee, Governor Mike Dukakis) the Reverend Jesse Jackson took his campaign to the convention – where he claimed 1,023 delegates (whereas Dukakis went in with 1,792 delegates).
And in 1992, despite winning only 6 states, 596 delegates, and 20.2% of the popular vote, Governor Jerry Brown did not end his campaign until the convention, where Governor Bill Clinton (37 states, 3,372 delegates, and 52.0% of the popular vote) obtained the Democratic Party’s nomination.
In short, with Senator Bernie Sanders currently trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in the popular vote by a 30.7% - 37.7% margin, and an estimated delegate deficit of only roughly 140, with many contests and delegates up for grabs in the weeks and months ahead, there is no need at all for anyone in Senator Sanders’ position to end their campaign at this juncture.
The March 15th debate should be one for the ages.